With Advent we begin a new church year as we renew our preparations for the coming of Christ. The scriptures show a profound movement from despair in the first reading, as we feel the wrath of God’s anger and a sense of being abandoned, to the responsorial psalm, which begs us to turn toward God, and the second reading where we see a glimmer of hope. Brimstone returns in the Gospel. This sense of unease and pain is much like what we have endured throughout 2020 with COVI0-19, racial struggles, and political campaigns. Frankly, everyone is ready for a restart, for a do-over, for a better year. We can understand the heartfelt prayer of the prophet Isaiah: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.” Hide not your face from us, 0 God, but during these days of Advent may you reveal yourself to each of us once again.
BE WATCHFUL! BE ALERT!
When Jesus does not speak in eloquent sentences, but barks out imperative statements such as in our Gospel reading today, one can understand the urgency. There is no place for flowery language. “Be watchful! Be alert!” One has a sense that these should be written in bold or all caps! He tells the parable of the homeowner leaving his workers at home, with no knowledge of when he would return. Without phones and texts and travel schedules it could have meant the homeowner was returning sometime in the day, or sometime in the coming month or year. So Jesus is not telling us, “You have to behave for a little bit,” but rather, “You must live your life and work like the homeowner is always here. You must always be prepared.”
This author was very aware of the language of “master/servant” in the Gospel today and is reading it and praying it in light of discussions on racism in recent months. Perhaps this goes with the last imperative at the end of the parable to “Watch!” This year has taught us to be alert in our actions such as social distancing, masks, and sanitizing, as well as in our language and even our thoughts. Now how do we apply that to our spirituality, to our faith? For many, due to restrictions on numbers in church, singing, and choirs, this has meant learning to pray in a whole different way. The celebration of liturgy is the same as ever, with its focus always on the Word and the Eucharist, but for those in the pew, or still watching on livestream, the sense of active participation has taken on a very different meaning from how most of us have experienced liturgy in our lifetime. It feels like we have become spectators rather than participants. Perhaps this challenge can move us from complacency in our faith, to rediscover and relate to God in new ways, and call us to be even stronger in our personal faith. We must remain diligent. We must “watch.” We must hope. We must love. We must pray.
Isaiah 63:16b-17, 19b, 64:2-7
Psalm 80:2-3, 15-16, 18-19
1 Corinthians 1 :3-9
© J. S. Paluch 2020. All Rights Reserved.
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St Vincent DePaul Society is a Catholic lay organization that leads women and men to join together to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to the needy and suffering.